Joint Committee Meeting: June 11, 2020

by Lynda Rubin

All members of the Board were present for this remote combined meeting of the Student Achievement and Support Committee and the Finance and Facilities Committee: President Joyce Wilkerson, Vice President Leticia Egia-Hinton, Angela McIver, Julia Danzy, Mallory Fix Lopez, Maria McColgan, Lee Huang, Ameen Akbar. Board and District staff can be seen on screen during the remote meeting. Dr. Hite was present at the opening of the meeting and during the School Safety Update presentation. Several Board members and Dr. Hite made statements about the recent protests after the murder of George Floyd. 

 Student Board Representatives Doha Ibrahim and Imere Williams gave their final report. They spoke about finding  “safe spaces” in schools,  including clubs and classrooms. They took pride in being part of the successful campaign to have the Free Library drop late fees. Doha and Imere suggested sending notices of the Student Town Halls to all students in the school rather than having the principal select student leaders. This would give them a wider sampling of student voices and concerns. Doha also raised the possibility of virtual meetings. 

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The Growing Influence of the Philadelphia School Partnership

In 2015,  APPS published research reports on the Philadelphia School Partnership  in which we looked at board members, donors and political supporters.In the past five years, PSP’s influence has grown along with the organization’s programs. The School District of Philadelphia has accepted millions more in grants, along with the mandates and ideological directions that come with those funds. 

White Suburbanites Make Funding Decisions about City’s Schools 

When examining PSP’s outsized influence over District policies and practices, including targeted funding of certain schools, we begin with the handful of people making those decisions as PSP board members. PSP has insinuated itself into the District’s operations in a number of ways, including family communication and engagement, teacher recruitment, and training of educators and school administrators.   PSP’s  Board makes decisions about public schools in meetings that are closed to the public. Thus, the voices of public school families and the larger community are diminished.  Until recently, PSP  had eight  board members, all of whom are white, six of whom live outside the city: Chair Michael G. O’Neill, Bill Marx, William McNabb III, Evie W. McNiff, Megan Maguire Nicoletti, Benjamin Persofsky, Kevin Shafer, and Janine Yass. In April 2020,  PSP added two members: Colin Kelton, who is white and resides outside of the city,  has worked in finance for 30 years at Vanguard. Sean Vereen, an African-American man who resides in the city,  has some education background through Stepping Stone, Inc.  Neither Vereen nor Kelton have any experience in classroom teaching.     PSP’s Board now consists of ten members, nine white and one African-American; seven of whom reside outside of the city.  In 2018, Mayor Kenney appointed Vereen to the Nominating Panel convened for the purpose of selecting Board of Education members. 

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Ears on the Board of Education: May 28, 2020

By Diane Payne

The Board held its sixth remote Action meeting on May 28 as the Covid-19 crisis continues to necessitate quarantine. The Board has taken a Shock Doctrine approach to leadership by arbitrarily, without explanation, changing the procedures for public speaking. These changes, obviously,  have no bearing on public safety.  In violation of its own policy, one approved by unanimous vote only 6 months ago, the Board has whittled down the public’s three minutes of speaking time to two. In another violation, the Board allowed only three speakers on a topic. The policy allows for four.  At the November 2019 Policy Committee meeting,  APPS co-founder Lisa Haver objected to the Board’s proposal to eliminate the public speakers’ provision of the meeting policy.  Her concern was that it would leave this important public process subject to capricious changes at the whim of the Board. Unfortunately,  Haver’s fears were prescient.  Again, there is no health and safety reason for reducing the number of public speakers.  APPS calls on the Board to cease violating its own policy and reinstate the public’s full three minutes to speak and the number of speakers on topics back to four.  

Board Officers Elected

The Board is operating with only eight members as Mayor Kenney has not replaced Chris McGinley.  For some reason, Mayor Kenney has said that his Nominating Panel must reconvene even though this panel submitted names of 27 candidates just months ago.  It is unclear why the panel must start all over.  The Board elected officers at this first meeting of the new term. Joyce Wilkerson was re-elected President, Leticia Egea-Hinton elected Vice-President.  The Mayor’s replacement for Wayne Walker, Akeem Akbar, participated in his first full Action Meeting.  The remaining Board members: Julia Danzy, Mallory Fix Lopez, Lee Huang, Maria McColgan, and Angela McIver were also all present for this remote platform meeting. Student representatives Imere Williamson and Doha Abrahim also attended. 

Minutes of the April meeting were approved.  

Seven APPS members spoke in defense of public education at this meeting; one member submitted written testimony.  This testimony can be viewed on the APPS website  

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